Brad Jackson sails upwind with 500-miles to go until the finish in Itajai. Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajai, Brazil.
At 1900 GMT, Puma was 320 nm from the final waypoint on this leg at Florianópolis, some 30 miles south of Itajaí and 41.10 nm ahead of Telefónica. According to Volvo Ocean Race the leg winner is expected to cross the finish at 1600 GMT tomorrow.
Telefonica have clawed back from a 400 nm deficit after suspending racing on March 31 for 17 hours to repair structural damage. Puma is the only boat on this 6300nm leg not to have suspended racing at some point.
Local squalls packing gusts in excess of 50 knots have battered both teams, but their attention has now turned to a massive low pressure system in the South Atlantic predicted to travel north and compress the pair to within two miles of each other in then next 24 hours, Volvo Ocean Race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante said.
Telefónica watch captain Neal McDonald said his team would do all they could to overhaul Puma in the final few hundred miles of the leg.
'We’re certainly going to give it a good go,' McDonald said. 'It’s going to be in the hands of the weather gods as much as anything else. If we get them in our sights we’ll have a good shot at giving them a run for their money.'
For most of the morning, Puma had the edge in boat speed and were able to keep the Spanish team at bay. However, since 1700 GMT Iker Martínez and his men, who have maintained their course just shy of 100 nm off the coast, have had better breeze with a faster angle and impressive boats speeds of around 23.3 knots have seen the miles clicking down fast as the team draws closer to Puma.
With a photo finish on the cards, Puma skipper Ken Read said these were tense times for his team as they clung to the lead.
'We’re terrified,' he admitted. 'Nobody’s had any sleep in the last day. We’re working our asses off, that’s all we can do. Sometimes the wind gods bless you, and sometimes they don’t.
'Telefónica have had a day and a half shorter journey up from the Horn. There’s nothing we can do apart from work our asses off and hope for the best.'
According to projections frrom www.predictwind.com!Predictwind Puma will still take the leg, by about 90 minutes using one weather stream and will finish second by 30 minutes according to a second. The telling point however lies in the race dashboard from Volvo Ocean Race which shows that Telefonica is sailing at speeds that are 10 knots faster than Puma, and the projections from www.predictwind.com!Predictwind for Puma show that she should be sailing at the same pace as Telefonica.
The projected courses for the two show Puma dropping down onto Telefonica, in the next few hours Telefonica will slow if she hits the same wind pattern as Puma; or, Puma will pick up the same breeze line as Telefonica and her speed will increase and she will be able to maintain her current margin. If the speed differential of 10kts remains the same then simple maths says that Telefonica will take the lead in the next four or five hours.
Meanwhile, there are still 20 points on offer for third place and both Groupama (Franck Cammas/FRA) and Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS) would like to claim them.
In a race against time, it looks likely that Groupama, who dismasted on Wednesday and limped to Punta del Este, Uruguay, to fashion a jury rig, will be the first of the two teams to resume racing. While Groupama are hampered by a much smaller sail area, they will have only 580 nm nautical miles to sail to the finish.
Camper face a much harsher passage from Chile, south around the fearsome Cape Horn and will have 2,800 nautical miles of sailing before they reach Itajaí. At latest report they were ahead of scheduled pace on their hull structure repair.
Abu Dhabi and Team Sanys have both withdrawn from Leg 5, which has seen only one of the six started not suspend racing at some point.
According to Volvo Ocean Race the latest ETA for the leading boats is 1600 UTC on Friday, April 6.